The humble soapberry – my new DIY friend

It really is all in the name – fancy having a tree that produces soap-filled berries!

Mother Nature really showed off with these little gems, which happen to be cousins with the commonly known lychee. The dried shells of this fruit contain saponins, a natural detergent that reduces the surface tension of water to lift dirt and grease. Soapberries have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. They are perfectly suited for so many cleaning and body care applications. I’m obsessed with their awesomeness.

Soapberries are so gentle on the skin, hypoallergenic and non-toxic. They are grey-water safe, don’t have a strong scent and are completely biodegradable – simply throw them in your garden compost when you’re done.

Unfortunately the soapberry tree or ‘Sapindus Mukorossi’ doesn’t grow here in Australia. But we can get our hands on the dried shells of these incredible berries and use them to clean, wash and shampoo.

How Do They Work, Exactly?

Soapberries contain saponins which is a substance produced by plants in an anti-microbial effort to protect its seeds – it tastes bad to insects. So, when soapberries are placed in water (warm is ideal but not essential), the saponins are released and act to lift dirt, grease and grime.

If you’re making the transition directly from mainstream detergents, you’ll notice that the gentle bubbles created only foam for a short while, but the cleaning efficiency remains high. Can I remind you that bubbles aren’t necessary to achieve ‘clean’? I can’t stress this enough. We’ve been conditioned to expect big bubbles in the sink, a thick lather on hair etc., but I can assure you that this is absolutely not necessary. The synthetic chemicals used to achieve bubbles, like SLS/SLES, are not ingredients you want having prolonged contact with your skin. Not only are there contamination concerns and the potential for harmful by-products to be created when they combine with other ingredients, but they have also been found to be toxic to aquatics (and where do these products go – straight down the drain).

Simple Uses For Soapberries

Check my Soapberry Master Stock recipe here. So easy!

Soapberry stock is so adaptable, not only for cleaning, but perfect for body and skin-care applications. I use the Soapberry Master Stock for clothes washing, dishwashing, cleaning surfaces and even shampooing hair.

5 soapberries in a cotton bag, thrown in with your next load of laundry will effectively clean your clothes. Warm water is ideal, but not necessary – just note that the soapberries won’t last as long with warm water as they will with cool. You should be able to get about five washes out of the same lot of berries. Just let them dry between washes to keep them fresh and ready to reuse. If you find your clothes aren’t washing as well as you’re used to, you might want to boost the cleaning power in your next load with a tablespoon of sodium percarbonate. Or try my Stain Solution for the particularly grubby items.

If you prefer an actual ‘washing detergent’ then check out my recipe for Liquid Laundry Detergent here.

I like to throw 3-4 soapberries in a jar with 1 cup of warm water, shake until foamy, and then empty into a sink for dishwashing. Dry the soapberries out between uses (I just use the lid of the jar and leave it under the sink) and reuse 4-5 times.

Where Can You Find Them?

A quick search online should provide you with a few options, however, I highly recommend That Red House. Talia, Adelaide-based founder of TRH, is my favourite supplier of organic soapberries. She is doing amazing things in this green DIY space; her intentions are pure and genuine – she and her team sincerely care about the health of the planet as well as helping people consider their waste and use of toxic products.

Krissy Ballinger

author and passionate advocate for natural living and wellness

Krissy Ballinger is an accomplished author and passionate advocate for natural living and wellness. Her mission is to gently guide individuals towards holistic wellbeing by providing a wealth of resources and services, ranging from natural living guidance and DIY recipes, to healing therapies that nurture the mind, body, spirit and space. She envisions a world where conscious choices are made that honour the self, humanity and the environment.

With her roots in education and health promotion, Krissy continually expands her expertise. Recently, she obtained certifications in Zone Healing Technique and NeurOptimal Neurofeedback (brain training), qualified as a Reiki Healer, and completed an Undergraduate Certificate in Lifestyle Coaching from Endeavour College of Natural Health.

Krissy dedicates her time to managing her wellness room, offering services in Zone and Reiki Healing, Neurofeedback brain training, and Chemical Awareness Consulting. Additionally, she educates individuals about common and avoidable toxins through her various social platforms. Krissy’s books have collectively sold over 100,000 copies, including the award-winning Naturally Inspired – Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning, as well as Make & Play – Natural DIY Recipes for Kids, and The Lifestyle Edit.


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